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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Todd McLeish 401-874-7892

URI and HybriGene to share resources and profits
Partnership aims to develop improved turfgrasses

KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 28, 2003 -- In the first partnership of its kind at the University of Rhode Island, a biotechnology firm and the University have agreed to share resources and collaborate on research to develop new varieties of turfgrass. URI will share in the revenues from any resulting products.

As a result of the partnership, HybriGene Inc., a biotechnology research company that uses molecular techniques to create turfgrass with improved traits, will use URI laboratory and office space rent-free and have access to URI equipment, researchers and student workers.

"This important partnership returns URI to its roots as an agricultural college while also breaking new ground in one of the most advanced and fastest growing industries around -- biotechnology," said Jeff Seemann, dean of the URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences, who negotiated the partnership. "It’s the first time an outside company has located on our campus, and we expect the partnership will produce both academic and commercial products. Our collaboration is working to solve real world problems."

URI is home to the nation’s oldest turf research center, and the University generates considerable revenues from grass seeds developed here.

HybriGene is owned by internationally recognized turf seed producer Bill Rose, who also owns Turf-Seed Inc., Pure Seed Testing, and Roselawn Seed Inc., which combine their efforts doing research, seed production and marketing to supply world markets. Rose is also president of Tee-2-Green Corp. located near Hubbard, Ore., an area recognized as the grass seed capital of the world. Tee-2-Green markets 70 percent of the creeping bentgrass sold in the world. Rose acquired HybriGene at the auction of the assets of AgriBioTech, and it has been progressing rapidly ever since.

"Biotechnology is the future for agriculture, and HybriGene has licensed the leading technology in the world from the Purdue Research Foundation," said Rose. "The technology was developed by Dr. Tom Hodges and provides the ability to produce transgenic crops safely due to the ability to produce useful male sterile plants without any risk of transgenic pollen escape because there is no transgenic pollen produced.

"The collaboration with URI brings research and commercial plant production together to produce an efficient path to the markets. This continues my association with the University, which started with Dr. Richard Skogley in approximately 1970," he added.

Rose has established the Rose Environmental Biotechnology Internship Program at URI, which has provided funding for 10 to 15 paid undergraduate interns per semester to work at HybriGene.

"The student internship program has provided our students with a great resume-builder," said Seemann. "After working at HybriGene, our students can go to work in almost any agricultural research lab in the world."

The research director at HybriGene is Albert Kausch, who was on the research team that created the world’s first transgenic corn plant more than a decade ago. He is also an adjunct professor at URI.

The HybriGene facility, located in the College’s laboratory facility in West Kingston, is the most advanced biotech lab at URI with more than $1 million worth of equipment in use. The company is actively developing turfgrasses that require fewer chemicals and less irrigation, among other traits. The company intends to expand its research to include genetically modified rice in the near future.

The Facilities Committee of the Rhode Island Board of Governors of Higher Education approved the partnership between URI and HybriGene at its meeting on March 26, and the full Board will consider it for approval at their April meeting.

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